Brian Flores was fired as coach of the Miami Dolphins last month and is actively interviewing elsewhere. He made headlines across the NFL this week, suing the league and three teams, including the franchise that just dismissed him.
Indeed, the week before Super Bowl Week – a time when NFL news usually simmers down — took on a decidedly different tone, one that could dent the league’s foundation for years to come.
Alleging discrimination regarding his interview process with the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants this offseason and in his dismissal from the Dolphins, Flores claims the NFL and those three franchises are guilty of racist hiring practices.
“There’s a humiliation that came over me,” Flores told ABC News. “Why wasn’t I afforded the opportunity to truly interview and show what I can do? Because I am a good coach and I do relate to players and I know how to lead.”
The allegations didn’t stop there. An additional layer to the Dolphins’ piece in this is also quite damning to the team’s and league’s reputation and could linger even deeper into the offseason and beyond.
What could be viewed as Flores’ most explosive claim might be directed at Stephen Ross, Miami’s owner. Flores alleges he was offered $100,000 per loss in 2019 with the goal of having the Dolphins obtain the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, a round that included several elite quarterback prospects. Flores said he has a witness that can validate his claims against Ross.
Not long after Flores went public, Ross released a statement denying the allegations, saying, in part, his claims “are false, malicious and defamatory.” But the NFL stated it will conduct a thorough investigation as such claims hold great weight to the competitive integrity of the league and could have ripple effects for years to come.
Flores maintains that — because he refused to comply, and the team performed better than Ross would have liked — it ultimately led to him being fired/ That is despite a three-year run in which he believes the Dolphins exceeded expectations. As it turned over the roster and further pushed a youth movement, Miami finished 9-8 this season.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who had Flores on his staff before he landed the Dolphins’ top job, also plays a role in the lead-up to the lawsuit. There was a misunderstanding through a Belichick text message conversation with Flores last month. As Belichick, Flores said, thought he was texting Brian Daboll to congratulate him for landing the coaching job with the New York Giants, when instead he texted Flores, who was scheduled to later interview with the Giants.
New York was quick to issue a statement, but it has not diffused the impact of the headlines.
“We interviewed an impressive and diverse group of candidates. The fact of the matter is, Brian Flores was in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour,” the Giants said. “Ultimately, we hired the individual we felt was most qualified to be our next head coach.”
Flores began the interview process with several teams shortly after the regular season concluded. After finishing 8-1 with the Dolphins following a 1-7 start, he quickly became a marketable candidate. It was the Dolphins’ second-straight winning season. And even though teams are filling up their coaching staffs, Flores remains a candidate for the top job with the Houston Texans.
All that said, the focus has been off his coaching resume this month. The lawsuit has been filed as “class action,” meaning multiple parties are welcome to join Flores as plaintiffs in the suit, which he has stated he expects to happen.
Flores was one of three African-American coaches in the NFL in the 2021-2022 NFL season out of the 32 teams. The NFL implemented what is known as the “Rooney Rule” in 2003, a policy that mandated that teams with vacant head-coaching jobs must interview an ethnic-minority candidate before making their final decision. Flores claims that teams have interviewed him and other African-American coaching candidates in the past simply to comply with the Rooney Rule. But, ultimately, they had no intentions of hiring them. Flores accused the Broncos of doing this after they interviewed him in 2019. The team, shortly after Flores’ interview, hired Vic Fangio.
Denver, like New York, quickly issued a statement league-wide.
“Pages of detailed notes, analysis and evaluations from our interview demonstrate the depth of our conversation and sincere interest in Mr. Flores as a head coaching candidate,” the Broncos said. “Our process was thorough and fair to determine the most qualified candidate for our head coaching position.”
The day after the lawsuit was filed, Flores appeared on ESPN with his two attorneys to double down on his claims and further explain why he decided to pursue the action.
When asked why he felt he needed to do this, Flores said, “because we need change. That was the number one reason.” Flores stated that there are plenty of capable young African-American coaches that he knows would make excellent hires. Still, he fears they may be treated the same way he and other former African-American coaches have been in the past.
The NFL, similar to the three teams involved, denied all allegations and are focused on proving its innocence. Nevertheless, commissioner Roger Goodell will be front and center during Super Bowl Week in Los Angeles and will almost assuredly have to address the situation further.